I am not sure that I have any substantial disagreement with Jon about the state of the race at present, except that he is more confident than I am about what is going to happen. It looks like Romney is ahead nationally by a hair but still behind Obama by a couple of hairs in Ohio. That should mean that Obama has the edge.
One interesting thing is to compare the popular vote within states to the popular vote nationally in recent elections. Democratic candidates win California by a much larger popular margin than their share of the national vote, regardless of who wins. Republicans enjoy a similar advantage in Texas. That's how we color in the electoral real estate.
This year Ohio is ground zero in everyone's calculations in part because the opposite is true in the last two elections. Bush 43 beat Kerry by about 2.5% nationally and carried Ohio by 2%. Obama beat McCain by 7 points nationally and 5 points in Ohio. However, Ohio went for Bush 43 by 3.5% in 2000, when Bush actually lost the national vote by less than one percent. Right now, Obama seems to be doing marginally better in Ohio than nationally, which I think makes Ohio hard to game.
It does occur to me, from these reflections, that we might see a situation where one party or the other achieves an Electoral College lock. All that has to happen is for enough states to become more like California and Texas: more biased than the national majority. Presumably, at this point, the Democrats would be more likely to get it. Still, such a lock would only produce an electoral winner/popular vote loser in very close elections. If, however, the state by state bias were small enough and the overall electorate stabilized near 50/50, Electoral College/popular vote divergence might become more common. I am too lazy to explore the math, but that doesn't stop me from musing.
While still musing, it's hard not to be awestruck by Romney's improvement among women in the polls. Here's USAToday on their recent swing state poll with Gallup:
As the presidential campaign heads into its final weeks, the survey of voters in 12 crucial swing states finds female voters much more engaged in the election and increasingly concerned about the deficit and debt issues that favor Romney. The Republican nominee has pulled within one point of the president among women who are likely voters, 48%-49%, and leads by 8 points among men…
"In every poll, we've seen a major surge among women in favorability for Romney" since his strong performance in the first debate, veteran Democratic pollster Celinda Lake says. "Women went into the debate actively disliking Romney, and they came out thinking he might understand their lives and might be able to get something done for them."…
The USA TODAY findings are consistent with a nationwide Pew Research Center Poll taken after the first presidential debate and released last week. Obama's 18-point lead among women in mid-September evaporated in Pew's October survey, showing him tied 47%-47% with Romney among female likely voters.
Beeg wow. Obama won men by a point in 2008 and women by thirteen points. According to this poll of swing states, confirmed by other polls, the numbers are now reversed. I have no idea what this means. A four point lead overall in the swing states doesn't mean that Romney will win enough of them to seal the deal. It surely means that he has dramatically improved his chances of winning enough of them.
If the gender gap for Obama has really evaporated nationally, as Pew finds, shouldn't Romney be well ahead in national polls? This year we have more information than ever before and less idea of what is really going on.